The country's Christmas "season" is here, so streaming giant Netflix has an early gift for Filipinos: new shows that are proudly Pinoy.
On its See What's Next: Philippines 2023 media launch on Sept. 18, Netflix unveiled to PhilSTAR L!fe and other media outlets six fresh titles it is featuring from rising Filipino filmmakers, namely:
Can't Buy Me Love – Premieres on Oct. 13
- Directed by: Mae Cruz Alviar
- Cast: Donny Pangilinan, Belle Mariano
- Synopsis: Bingo (Pangilinan) is a popular online seller who juggles different jobs. He meets Caroline (Mariano), who hails from a traditional wealthy Chinese family.
Replacing Chef Chico – Coming soon
- Cast: Piolo Pascual, Alessandra de Rossi, Sam Milby
- Director: Dan Villegas
- Showrunner: Antoinette Jadaone
- Synopsis: A sous chef takes over Hain's kitchen when something happens to its head chef.
Keys to the Heart – Coming soon
- Cast: Zanjoe Marudo, Elijah Canlas, Dolly de Leon
- Director: Kerwin Go
- Synopsis: A boxer (Marudo) moves in with his long-lost mother (De Leon) and autistic pianist brother (Canlas) — but must fit in with a family he hasn't known for years.
What If – Now streaming
- Cast: Alessandra de Rossi, JM de Guzman
- Director: Manny Palo
- Synopsis: Newlywed musicians (De Ross and De Guzman) get trapped in a storm on their island honeymoon. They must face difficult truths that could tear their marriage apart.
Seasons – Now streaming
- Cast: Lovi Poe, Carlo Aquino
- Director: Easy Ferrer
- Synopsis: After a string of failed relationships, two best friends (Poe and Aquino) make a deal to take risks and look for love again—but they might just find it in each other.
Missed Connections – Now streaming
- Cast: Miles Ocampo, Kelvin Miranda, Chie Filomeno
- Director: Jelise Chung
- Synopsis: After an unforgettable encounter, a hopeless romantic turns to an app to seek out a man she just met—but is he really what she’s looking for?
What If and Missed Connections have reached No. 1 on Netflix’s top list after their respective premieres.
Netflix also released its very first station ID. Mariano and Pangilinan or "DonBelle," Marudo, Canlas, Pascual, De Rossi, Milby, Ocampo, Miranda, Filomeno, De Guzman, Poe, and Aquino came together as they went Christmas caroling at Barangay Netflix.
During the roundtable discussion, Palo, Go, Villegas, and Jadaone highlighted how their projects will help usher in the holiday season as their shows offer valuable insights and stir emotions.
Palo said What If would help viewers reflect on the past year, including milestones and failures.
“Christmas is about family, familial love, and friends," he said. "Just like in our film... what if iba nangyari sa buhay natin in the past year? What if kinuha ko ito or what if ’di ko ginawa ito?"
Go, meanwhile, said Keys to the Heart celebrates unconventional or blended families, which could also be in the form of neighbors.
For Villegas, Replacing Chef Chico is something to look forward to because aside from the subject matter's mouthwatering nature, it teaches a thing or two about love, friendship, and acceptance which is "perfect" for Christmas.
Jadaone added that it's high time for Filipino food to get its proper spotlight.
"It's a celebration of not just family, friends, or love, but tayong mga Pinoy will be celebrating the Filipino food that we eat each day," she said. "When other countries watch the series, mafi-feel din nila iyon.”
The four filmmakers also talked about the importance of creating stories that are not only entertaining and compelling but also exalt the Filipino experience.
"I wanna make movies that I myself want to watch," Go said. "In anything that I do, what I want is to tell an entertaining in a simple and unpretentious but impactful way as much as possible."
"If you look into yourself, what are you fascinated by, what are your hobbies, what do you geek out on, what stories attract you, you'd be surprised that you're able to connect with more people," he added.
Palo stressed the importance of being relatable and "true to the core," which is best done through stories in the present Philippine context.
Jadaone, meanwhile, acknowledged the "pressure" on writers to develop new stories and characters. She said things can be kept fresh by turning to our roots.
She also talked about catering to Filipino viewers' needs, whether on television or in cinema.
"As creators, natuto kami mag-adjust kung anong medium ang pinapanooran ng Pinoy," Jadaone said. "Gawa ka lang ng magandang kwento, not choosing where it would be shown... It's up to the audience when and where they want to watch it. It doesn't matter. It will always find its way to an audience."
"At the end of the day," Villegas said, "what's important is the story and heart."